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Prosper Show Recap: Selling on Amazon and Beyond

11 Mar 2024

Mars United Commerce reports on key themes and takeaways from the annual ecommerce seller event.

By Michael Bond, Mars United Commerce

The 2024 Prosper Show was vibrant, insightful, action-inducing, and just plain awesome for networking.

Held this year in Las Vegas from March 4-6, Prosper Show annually brings together established ecommerce sellers on Amazon, Walmart, and other marketplaces to share, connect and learn from each other about making their businesses more profitable.

For an industry veteran like me, it’s always meaningful to put faces (new and old) to names and meet new people who’ve taken the initiative to enter the ecommerce fray. This year’s event offered plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Amazon is the dominant force in ecommerce, of course, and we’re grateful for the success the platform provides clients each day. (As a consumer, I’m on the Amazon app almost daily as well.) However, competition is great for ecommerce.

And let’s face it, doing business with Amazon has never been more complex — or expensive. Sellers are facing an environment of rising fees and growing competition that seems to get more demanding each day.

It used to be that a JungleScout data pull would regularly find categories with medium-level or even low competition in advertising and page share of voice. But I can’t think of a single recent category audit that revealed low competition. These days, all categories seem to be highly competitive — which is good for Amazon’s business, but tough on brands.

Things are no different on the service side. This year’s show floor was chock-full of impressive tools from both established, well-funded players and relative newcomers. All of them had impressive spokespeople — which, as of yet, didn’t include AI-fueled bots roaming the aisles to simultaneously delight and confuse.

For few summary points, let’s start with the competition for Amazon Marketplace. Beyond the industry leader, standout opportunities at the show started with Walmart Marketplace and TikTok Shop. Walmart’s online audience goes beyond its in-store shopper base (in some attractive ways demographically), and while there is certainly some overlap with Amazon’s audience, offers an attractive “volume” alternative. TikTok shops provide an avenue for reaching younger consumers and a qualified traffic stream that’s perhaps unequaled in the history of ecommerce — are we finally close to that promised social-shopping revolution?

I’d be remiss here if I didn’t also mention the opportunities presented by Temu and Shein, with their incredible manufacturing, factory-direct prowess, and their pulse on style and fast-moving goods.

And with the growing level of competition – both on and off-Amazon – comes that growing host of tools and services to help brands navigate the continuous challenges of the marketplace business. As Amazon Advertising advocate Jeffery Cohen so eloquently explained, marketplace sellers are essentially bakers with access to a plethora of basic ingredients. Baking something simple is easy to do, but the true mastery comes from mixing and matching to create something both amazing and successful.

Running a business these days is akin to being part traffic cop/part data scientist. Different ad levers, video, AI, media, etc. all have a role in building and maintaining a successful brand online, but without continuous testing it’s nearly impossible to find the perfect combination. With those tests comes a whole lot of data as well — but don’t worry, there are plenty of service providers more than happy to help harness it all.  

Other dominant themes at the show worth mentioning, in no particular order:

  • AI and LLMs (large language models): They’re not perfect yet, and there is more pain to come, but they will drive a huge shift in traditional search.
  • The absolutely non-linear purchase funnel. Thank you, Amazon Marketing Cloud (AMC) for illuminating what we have long-surmised; it’s high time we come up with a new term, because the path to purchase is not funnel-shaped at all.
  • The final nail in the coffin of ROAS being the True North KPI, replaced by incrementality and specific goals. Data requires measurement to be truly impactful, and as our community gets better every day at measuring, the ability to build and use custom KPIs can be a game-changer. And speaking of True North, there are multiple possibilities, not just one, as evidenced by the number of service providers present at Prosper.

Other compelling themes worth noting are the concept of Amazon Twitch as more than a gaming audience; the raw power of paid search + demand side platforms (again, thanks to AMC); the need to find less-expensive audiences and traffic (often via social) to counter-balance the media mix; Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime coming back better than before; and the valuable lessons learned from COVID comps (which are good to see in the rearview mirror now).

I could include 101 more insights but, just like a visit to the show floor, there isn’t time to cover everything — but here’s one more: the in-store connection still plays a critical role in how brands influence shoppers in totality.

This is a performance business, and whether you’re winning or losing, there is a lot to love about it. One is the people who attend industry events like Prosper with the goals of growth, and community, in mind.

Michael Bond

About the Author
As Vice President of Ecommerce at Mars United Commerce, Michael Bond provides clients with consultative services on end-to-end business management for ecommerce, with a particular focus on all things Amazon. His extensive background in ecommerce and digital marketing includes Fortune 50 experience at both Amazon and Microsoft.

Mars United’s Ecommerce team knows that succeeding in online marketplaces — Amazon especially — takes more than just winning the algorithm. Powered by the agency’s proprietary data analytics platform, our experts take clients to a new level by providing end-to-end Amazon management, including business operations, advertising, and digital shelf optimization. Our Digital Shelf Studio uses this proprietary data to create, enhance and optimize client activity across the landscape to align retailer-specific requirements, be discoverable along the shopper journey, win against the competition, align to brand priorities and initiatives, and convert shoppers. For more information, contact Michael at [email protected].

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